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Soon-to-be medicine resident reflects on what makes a good teacher

doctors talkingIlana Yurkiewicz, a fourth-year student at Harvard Medical School, will begin an internal medicine residency at Stanford in June, and she hopes to bring teaching to the forefront of her time here. She recently wrote a post for her blog, Unofficial Prognosis, hosted by Scientific American, in which she discusses how grateful she is for the teachers who mentored her, and what she would like to improve as she takes on teaching responsibilities as a resident:

As a third and fourth-year medical student, I sometimes felt like a dolt on the wards. The thing is – and forgive my self-assurance here – I don’t think I’m a dolt in real life. Just like the students Dr. Fitzgerald described who had interesting lives outside of medicine and suddenly became dull on the wards, so, too, I could relate.


...Sometimes the most negative experiences for me weren’t the result of any particular individual, but a culture that treated me in certain ways – that set certain expectations for who a medical student was and how she should be treated, and then acted to mold me toward those expectations. It was these unspoken pressures that made me feel my most dolt-like – or at least, didn’t do much to counteract it.

She lists five specific ways she thinks the culture of teaching medical students can be improved, and she reflects on the teachers who positively impacted her experience:

The compassionate internal medicine resident who not only served as a role model in patient interactions, but who also recognized the effects that witnessing mortality might have on students, frequently checking in on how we were doing. The anesthesia nurse who patiently taught me how to place IV’s, going over each step meticulously, and not judging or pulling the equipment from me when I did not succeed, but instead offering specific tips that enabled me to get it right the next time. The intern who gave us third-year medical students full responsibility over our patients, letting us direct the conversations and treatment plans, but never absent, always sending resources and offering feedback to help us improve. And there were many more.

What did they have in common? They were patient. They focused on what matters. They put the patient at the center of care. They created cultures where everyone was respected and open communication was welcome. They were enthusiastic about having medical students active and involved. And the educational glue: they made medical students feel autonomous yet supported at the same time. That’s how you learn; by doing, supplemented with regular feedback. That’s how you get better.

Previously: Stanford Medicine's Lloyd Minor on reconceiving medical education, What's it like to be an internal medicine resident at Stanford? and Program for residents reflects "massive change" in surgeon mentality
Photo courtesy of Office of MD Admissions

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